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The Little Matter Of Palestine In 1948

(Jerusalem 1948 - Same as it ever was - Same as it ever was) With the recent news of the attempted kick starting of talks between Israelis and the


(Jerusalem 1948 - Same as it ever was - Same as it ever was)

With the recent news of the attempted kick starting of talks between Israelis and the Palestinians, I was reminded just how long this entire odyssey has been going on - a lot longer than many people have been on the planet, for one thing.

But it seems there was a time when the U.S. had actually considered sending troops over to the region, acting as a sort of buffer between factions. The notion that we'd still be over there, some sixty years later gives pause as to how it could end up with us now in Afghanistan. When, during the election John McCain entertained the possibility of the U.S. being in Iraq for a hundred years, everyone recoiled. But in retrospect, it appears we're rather good at suggesting those sorts of things. Thank God we don't act on our instincts all the time.

But in 1948, with the British getting ready to leave the region and fighting between Jews and Arabs going full tilt, the Chicago University Roundtable hosted a discussion, featuring several pundits (aka: "experts"as they were called at the time) to venture an opinion on whether our involvement in the Middle East was a good idea or not.

The opinions ran the gamut, although it's interesting to note that no one actually from the region (i.e. Arab or Jew) was included. So there is something of a strange bias to be had going into this discussion, one of an "armchair" viewpoint rather than one actually on the ground, with the possible exception of Arthur Creech-Jones who was Colonial Secretary in charge of Palestine at the time. But times have changed. I don't think this type of discussion would take place today (unless it was Fox). But it's interesting to see what factors formed an opinion some sixty years ago.

John A. Wilson: “First, Palestine cannot survive economically if it’s carved into two zones. Second, a policing and occupying army does not bring a country together. It rather pulls it apart. Let’s look at the other countries which have been carved apart and held apart by force. Germany and Austria have been arbitrarily divided into zones, cutting off the normal and traditional flow of goods. Four enforcing armies hold Germany apart and prevent normal economic life. In Asia, Korea is in exactly the same situation, cut by an arbitrary line into two zones. A drastic surgical operation divided India into a Muslim state and a Hindu state at a cost of perhaps a quarter of a million lives. Partition is bad economy in Germany, Austria, Korea and India. It will be bad in Palestine. Imagine American and Russian military contingents inside Palestine. Would they bring the country together? Or would they push it further apart? How soon could they leave? It is not a pleasant outlook. American and Russian troops eyeing each other in Palestine for our lifetime. Everyone who argues a population increase in Palestine has done so on the basis of potential water power there. Well certainly, a Jordan Valley Authority like our TVA would be a marvelous asset to Palestine.

But it would do the Jews no good, so long as force holds the land apart. If Jewish Palestine is to receive four hundred thousand more immigrants it must be industrialized. Partition means trying to industrialize without any raw materials or any power whatsoever. The raw materials and the water of the Jordan Valley are in the proposed Arab state. Jewish Palestine would be doomed to become an international ghetto dependent upon the charity of British and American Jews forever. Is this just to the honest aspirations of the Jews of Europe and the Jews of Palestine? No. Partition will not work. Well then what is the answer? The United Nations should issue a ceasefire order immediately to the Arabs and Jews and Palestine should be reconstructed as a single federal state on the pattern of Switzerland, with respect for the different peoples, providing local autonomy of the Jewish and Arab cantons on religion, education and municipal government and unity in economic development and foreign affairs. But that is not enough in itself. Unity in Foreign Affairs means that immigration of Jews in Europe would be small. We need an international relocation authority, with the United States taking a generous initiative in order to receive homeless Jews into this country and others. If Jews are assured of a welcome and a new start in life in the United States, Canada and other countries, then it will be unnecessary for them to crowd into the slum of a partitioned Palestine.”

Perhaps this is how wars get started.


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